I went to the eye doctor for my annual check-up, which has been two years because of Covid, and found out that not only do I need reading glasses but I also have cataracts. My first thought was I’m not that old, I’m only 43, cataracts is for old people. I spent the entire drive home in so much reaction.
Immediately after walking in my door, I looked up cataracts (a clouding of the eye lens) in Messages from the Body by Michael J. Lincoln: “seeing a dark future ahead in which there is no joy and no end in sight…they systematically seek to avoid looking at the future.” (Louise Hay says the same: Inability to see ahead with joy. Dark future.)
My first thought upon reading that was, yeah that’s pretty much where my thoughts and vibrations have been for years. My vision has been very cloudy about my future, my hope for my future, if I would even have a future. I really didn’t start saving for retirement until I was in my late 30s because I never thought I would make it to retirement age. I figured I would’ve killed myself by then.
I want to be more hopeful about my future. I want to believe that I can have a future that includes really amazing things. I want to believe that I can have a fulfilling, satisfying, amazing life for the next 50+ years. I want to see clearly. I don’t want my perspective clouded by everything that I have thought and created and manifested from before. I want to start fresh and see my future with a clear perspective.
I don’t really want to talk about this with people, unless they are in alignment and on the same path, because I know what I will hear is, “Getting old sucks.” or “That’s just the way it goes.” or “Yeah, it’s all downhill from here.” Yes, I do have those thoughts and beliefs, but I want to shift them. I do know it’s possible to heal and return to well-being. If you have any doubt about the ability of the body to spontaneously heal, read Anita Moorjani’s book Dying to Be Me. Every time I have doubt I think about her. After slipping into a coma because her body was riddled with cancer, she had an NDE and came back into her body. She KNEW she was healthy and two weeks later the tumors were gone.
This diagnosis opened me up to really focus on what I want for my future. It’s like a switch was flipped. I’m more excited and positive than I’ve ever been. Every time I notice the clouding, I tell myself I have amazing and wonderful things in my future. Source is bringing everything in perfect timing. It’s already on the way. The last few days have been so freeing. I have a completely different perspective about life and how the universe works. It’s like everything has fallen into place and I’m seeing with new eyes. This is how you change your life—little by little, day by day, being confronted with contrast and consciously pivoting to what you want.
Many articles and much commentary have been devoted to mental health since the pandemic began. Some people were very cognizant of how the extended quarantine and altered daily life were going to impact everyone, but I don’t think most people were aware how deeply it would go and how many would be affected.
Everyone has been so focused on the physical threat of the virus, justifiably so, that they didn’t realize there’s going to be a mental health pandemic that comes after this. I understand the thinking, because like in a war zone, you want to stop the physical death first, but as we’ve seen with so many people, PTSD is a serious problem and it has serious consequences. It’s not just soldiers coming back from war who are going to be dealing with PTSD. Everyone has some trauma from a year of isolation and quarantine and fear and change and loss of jobs and loss of finances and everything being upended. Those daily traumas have created so much anxiety and depression and we have few resources and no system in place to help people with that.
Now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic with the arrival of widespread vaccinations, people are eager to get back to normal, but that normal doesn’t exist anymore. Every single person on the planet has been profoundly changed by the last year. Society seems the think there are two groups when it comes to mental health—normal people and crazy people. The truth is mental health is a part of everyone’s life, just like physical health. At one time or another everyone will have a mental health problem because of stress at work, a bad breakup, the loss of a loved one and myriad other everyday occurrences.
While I no longer have shame talking about my mental health, it is still a very taboo subject for a lot of people. When you feel shame about something and can’t talk about it for fear of ostracism or punishment, the problem doesn’t just go away. In fact it gets worse, because it is growing and festering underneath the surface. People have spent the last year just trying to function on a daily basis and if they haven’t been also taking care of their mental health, there’s a lot that’s going to be bubbling up now that the physical threat is gone.
The stigma around mental health and people thinking you’re crazy is a huge block to getting help. Most people suffer in silence. My first suicidal thoughts were at the age of nine. I did not get help for my depression until I was twenty years old. We need to do better than that. Now that I’ve been open about my mental health issues for so long, I don’t have any hesitancy talking about it, even with complete strangers, but that isn’t the case for most people.
If someone tells you they are depressed and thinking about suicide and your response is we can’t let the neighbors know, what you’ve essentially said to your loved one is—I would rather you kill yourself than have other people think poorly of me. That’s not what you intended but that’s what the other person hears. If you gossip about someone saying she’s “crazy,” anyone who hears that who has emotional problems will not come to you or most likely anyone for help, because they will be afraid of being labeled the same.
I hated the ending of the Hunger Games series because even though Katniss won, she lost. Twenty years later she still had PTSD and was barely functioning. That’s not winning to me. That’s losing an entire life. In our drive to keep people alive, we’ve lost our way on people actually living and enjoying that life. It’s not enough to still be breathing. Being miserable but still breathing is what hell is. Hell isn’t what you get for living a bad or mean or evil life. Hell is disconnecting from who you are while still living in this body.
I spend equal amounts of time every day on my physical and mental health. I’ve written before about my routine, which changes from time to time, but I zealously guard my time. Exercise and meditation are essential for me. It’s not if I have time—I make the time. It is nonnegotiable. Having that maintenance be an everyday occurrence makes mental health more on par with brushing your teeth or drinking enough water. It needs to be viewed as part of overall well-being not as some deep dark secret.
We all benefit from improvements in mental health. There isn’t as much volatility in the air. People are able to see different perspectives. Happy people are kind to people. Relaxed people know there’s time and space for everyone. Well-balanced people are able to view conflict and adversity calmly and to find a satisfactory solution. This pandemic has caused a lot of upheaval, but maybe it has also cleared the way for us to have a productive conversation about all the mental health issues that it has brought up and find a better way forward.
When I look at how my life has turned out, there are some areas I’m extremely proud of and other areas I’m less than thrilled with. The fact that I’m even still alive and didn’t commit suicide, having lived with depression my whole life, is a testament to my perseverance and drive. But when I look at the things and stuff I’ve accomplished, I think: how did this happen to me? I was the Type A overachiever growing up who was going to be super successful. I got straight A’s, worked doubly hard to be the best at everything, got into an elite East Coast university and then everything fell apart.
All my goals were based on me not being enough, not feeling good enough and needing to do more to prove myself to be worthy. I was going to be a superstar because then I would know I had accomplished enough to be lovable. When I switched from International Relations to Theatre in college, I went from thinking I’d be the Ambassador to France to thinking I’d be a movie star. Nothing else was good enough.
When acting didn’t work and I realized I didn’t have the drive for it and just wanted the glamour and wealth, I decided to let it go. But then I realized how lost I was. I’d come to LA for acting and now that I wasn’t acting, why was I staying in LA? I had done a lot of admin and PA work because I did it as a student in college for extra money, and when I came to LA I just needed a job to pay the rent. I didn’t need a job to further my career; I was going to be a movie star. Then there I was at thirty feeling deeply unmoored with no clear direction in sight.
I decided to save up money to travel and set up a blog to document my six-month road trip in 2009. I was going to be a superstar who got paid to travel. Travel influencer wasn’t a job yet, but blogger was. I had no idea how to do it as a business and no confidence in myself to say, hey look how awesome I am, you should pay me for this. I came back in debt, unemployed and expanded my photography skills to food by documenting my numerous baking projects.
In 2012, I moved to Paris to study French at the Sorbonne, thinking, see America just wasn’t right for me. I’m going to be an expat living a fabulous life in Europe. Six months later, I was back in LA, unemployed and in debt again.
I’ve spent the last nine years trying to unravel the emotional roadblocks and resistance instead of picking up and running away, even if it is to someplace fabulous. While I know I’ve grown tremendously as a person and really expanded and become a more balanced and less reactive human being, I can’t help thinking that I’ve pretty much wasted the last decade. I know deep down I haven’t, and I’m so proud of myself for where I am mentally and emotionally now. I know for the first time in my life I have a solid foundation to build on. Outwardly though, it looks like I’ve done nothing. No relationship, no career, no fabulous house or lifestyle.
It’s made me take a really hard look at my values. What does success look like? Is it money, power and prestige? Is it the amount of joy, love and happiness in your life? While I know it’s the latter, I haven’t accomplished much in either category. Who gets to decide that, though? Is it what I feel is of value to me or what other people tell me is of worth? Am I doing what I want or what I feel I need to in order to get the pat on the head from society? Who says I need to have a husband, two kids, a house and two weeks of vacation a year? Personally that image always freaked me out, because I looked around as a child and saw that once a woman got married and had kids, her life was over. Any dreams she had were set aside to take care of her husband and kids. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that was the only example I saw and I ran screaming in the other direction. But that wasn’t me pursuing my dreams and passions, that was me taking action in response to something I didn’t want. Success is being connected to your true self, that inner being that only wants the best for you, and making all your decisions and actions from there. I’m far from mastering that, but it’s something I work on every day and it’s led me to some insights.
Here’s what I do know. I have a rock solid friendship with the most amazing woman. We’ve known each other for almost twenty years. We lived together for a while a decade ago. We’ve been through everything with each other. We know absolutely everything about each other—the good, the bad, the horrendous and the embarrassing. We’ve never had a fight. We don’t judge each other. We are always there for each other and we’ve managed to remain friends as we’ve transitioned from being two young, single women to her marrying and having kids while I remain single.
Here’s what else I know. This kind of relationship is incredibly rare. When I think I don’t have much of a social life, don’t have a lot of friends or a man, I remember that having the quantity does not necessarily mean having the quality. I need to focus on the amazing relationships I do have, including a new friendship that is similar to my most treasured one. I would still like to find a man I can have a deep connection with, one I can travel with and build a life together, but I don’t want to settle for less than what I want and I don’t want to think I have to be less in order to be with him. So I’m focusing on me, on being the woman who attracts an amazing, supportive equal partner.
Ultimately I have to let go of how I thought my life would look, because that image was based on a lot of negative beliefs that I don’t want to carry around anymore. It was the dream fantasy life of someone who was miserable, lonely and trying to escape her isolated life. Some of the things I want might look the same on the surface, but the feeling behind them will be completely different. The money, house and lifestyle will come because I love myself and know my worth, not as evidence to convince myself I’m worthy. My man will come because I feel complete as I am, not because I’m looking to him to complete me.
The perspective I have is one of my greatest accomplishments. The life I thought I would have was full of stuff, but I was never clear on how it felt. The stuff was supposed to fix everything and make me happy once I’d achieved it. Letting go of that empty existence doesn’t seem like such a sacrifice anymore. It’s also letting go of the girl who wanted that stuff and all the heavy, dark reasons for wanting it. I’d like to be able to say that I’ve let that go, I feel light and have created fabulous new things in my life, but I’ve committed to be honest here. While I can feel how good that would feel to be like that, I’ve still got some work to do to live there on a more regular basis. Life is always a work in progress and some days are going to be better than others. I know everything is always working out for me and things are always getting better. That’s the life I know I’ll be having for the rest of my time on earth.